The smartphone is like the human body in many ways. It’s an intricate collection of parts working together towards one goal. In both cases the brain and the CPU remain the most important part of the whole system.
We acknowledge that the brain is important in biology but we are also acutely aware that the heart is just as important whilst the appendix is a nice-to-have.
In smartphones and other computing devices we rightly love news about improvements to the brain of the device – the CPU – but sometimes fail to recognise the other parts that may impact the performance of the device.
When it comes to storage, most people are interested in one metric only – size/capacity. I think we can agree that even if you will only ever install one application, WhatsApp, like many Zimbabweans, 16GB is still too little for you.
Indeed, it’s been years since we saw a flagship launch with 16 or even 32GB of storage. The industry seems to have settled on 128GB as the minimum and with most of our media consumption coming from streaming services I think that’s okay.
So that’s size sorted. What we should be excited about now is speed.
It doesn’t matter how fast your CPU is, it will be limited by how fast it can read and write from storage.
A little while back we covered how you might not need to buy a new laptop. Simply change your hard disk drive to an SSD and you will see dramatic improvements.
My colleague’s 10 year old laptop is booting up 10 times faster with an SSD installed. He didn’t change the CPU by the way, only the hard drive to a faster storage solution. That shows that the CPU was being severely limited by the old hard drive.
The SSD he installed in his laptop uses flash memory. Flash memory is used in our phones, in USB flash drives and in memory cards too.
There are different types of flash memory and it turns out Android phones use a different type to iPhones. Most Android phones use what’s called Universal Flash Memory (UFS) and iPhones use NVMe. Note that budget Android phones may still use an old type called eMMC.
Today we are concerned about UFS.
Samsung improves UFS
Samsung recently announced UFS 4.0 which delivers double the speed of the previous generation and 45% better efficiency.
If smartphones were as modular and upgradeable as laptops we could have sprung for the new UFS 4.0 drives and stuck them in our old phones and given them a few more years.
This new UFS 4.0 standard offers improved transfer speeds, power efficiency and space savings. Like I mentioned, UFS 4.0 is twice as fast as the UFS 3.1 it is improving on whilst it’s four times as fast as an older 2.1 standard.
Note that UFS 2.1 is not as old as you would think. The Samsung Galaxy S10 released in 2019 used this standard. Three years later we are talking about a standard that’s four times as fast. When we couple this with faster CPUs, these new smartphones will be leaving the S10 in the dust.
Where do we expect to see the improvements in speed in real life? App and game loading times should be significantly reduced as should be high resolution video recording.
I have a Galaxy Note 3 running a custom rom which allows it to record 4K video but it’s not usable because of the write speed bottleneck so I know firsthand how storage speeds can affect video recording quality.
Not only does UFS 4.0 promise faster speeds it does so using less power too – 45% less than UFS 3.1 to be exact. This should lead to significantly better battery life.
Capacity has not been forgotten, these UFS 4.0 chips can have 1TB if you want.
The S23 is gonna be lit
Samsung expects to start mass production of UFS 4.0 storage chips in Q3 2021. So expect the first phones to have this faster storage in 2023 and I think the Galaxy S23 will be the first phone to rock that tech.
This means if you are due to upgrade your phone next year, you might as well make sure it has a UFS 4.0 chip for future proofing purposes. Why would you pass up faster speeds and better battery life?
This won’t be a Galaxy exclusive, other brands will be able to enjoy these faster speeds. Samsung Semiconductor sells its chips to anyone who will have them.
I don’t think Apple will be one of the brands knocking on Samsung’s doors though, they appear committed to their NVMe solution. They could though, stranger things have happened.